ANALYSIS: Philadelphia abuse reversal conveys a painful lesson

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(RNS) This week’s court decision that freed a senior cleric in Philadelphia who had been jailed for shielding an abusive priest was a symbolic setback for victims’ advocates but one with a substantial, and discouraging, message for their cause: None of the churchmen implicated in cover-ups during the worst decades of abuse will likely ever face charges.

  • Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

    Sister to Pope: Tackle the Scandal

    Philadelphia Daily News
    December 24, 2013

    POPE FRANCIS has been in the news recently due to his removal of more than a dozen cardinals from the Congregation of Bishops and his appointment of others.

    American Cardinals Burke and Rigali are in the former group, while Cardinal Wuerl, of Washington, D.C., is in the latter.
    In the news as well is a notice that the pope has decided that cardinals will begin hearing confessions regularly at churches around Rome.

    As important and interesting as such announcements may be to some, should they really be paramount in people’s minds?

    First things first:

    Will Pope Francis address the single-most critical issue facing the Catholic Church today, which is the continuing clerical sex-abuse scandal?

    Given the description of the pope’s papal commission on clerical child abuse, especially coming after a United Nations panel criticized the Vatican over its handling of abuse cases, with the Vatican saying that the responsibility for such cases rested with individual bishops, expectations on such a significant level have been decidedly mixed.

    Pope Francis’ words establishing this new commission in the church’s central bureaucracy would be commendable if at the same time he announced plans for disciplining and/or the removal from church offices of those bishops who, by the abuse of their episcopal authority, were complicit in the sexual abuse of thousands of children in the United States alone.

    Overseas, in the Netherlands, Dutch bishops have recently acknowledged the abuse of tens of thousands of children, according to a Reuters article.

    Perhaps Pope Francis has decided to go the distance with this commission, but if Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley’s statements are accurate, the pope’s creation of such a committee appears to be more along the lines of putting the cart before the horse than anything else.

    Any way one looks at it there is really no way to avoid an issue which, if not finally addressed in its totality, will result in even further public-relations fallout for the Catholic Church worldwide.

    Remember that diocesan bishops, their underlings, along with the provincials and superiors of religious congregations, created this horrific scandal by protecting known clerical sexual predators with essentially no regard for the Lord’s little ones, leaving these lambs unprotected before ravaging wolves.

    “The new commission is expected to tell church officials to collaborate with civil authorities and report cases of abuse,” O’Malley said.

    Is this a decision that calls for a papal commission? No, not to my thinking.

    The hierarchy has already exhausted its credibility and moral authority by its flawed response to this scandal over past decades, and neither will be regained by having the ecclesiastical body responsible for covering up that scandal charged with either its evaluation or correction.

    That has not worked well since 2002.

    Moreover, statements like those quoted above appear ludicrous given the nature of such heinous violations: crimes against the humanity of children.

    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    New Castle, Delaware

  • Forget about expecting the Vatican to police itself. Its shameful cover-ups to date, and Francis’ uninspiring record with priest abusers in Argentina and in Rome to date, make clear outside governments must compel the hierarchy to enforce child protection laws, as they are already compelling the hierarchy to enforce banking and financial laws. Papal promises are nice, but not enforcible, as we have learned too many times.

    Paradoxically, Lynn’s trial reversal, and the current publicity and outrage it is generating, are helping the cause of curtailing priest abuse. They also keep the pressure on Pope Francis to address the issue of bishop accountability directly and transparently, after nine months mainly of avoiding it.

    See, ” Monsignor Lynn Proves Why President Obama Must Step Up “, at: ‏

  • Judy Jones

    We can not count on Pope Francis to clean up this mess. He has now had several months to take some decisive actions to remove corrupt bishops who are covering up sex crimes against kids, yet still nothing has been done.
    And now this devastating court decision will allow more kids to be sexually abused and their crimes continue to be covered up by high ranking church officials.
    Lynn was convicted in a court of law by a jury, and yet he gets out of jail on a “technicality”, not because he didn’t do the crime. This decision now sends the strong message to those who enable and empower child predators to sexually abuse more kids, that, “Hey, we can keep covering up these crimes and get away with it”..

    The sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called “zero tolerance” policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don’t have to, because there is no punishment to force these church officials to change their ways of protecting their image and the institution rather than protecting innocent kids. Until they spend time behind bars for their crimes of cover up, nothing will change and children will still be sexually abused within this archaic secret system.

    How on earth are children to be protected if our own laws don’t work to protect them? Hopefully the prosecutor will appeal this decision to overturn Lynn’s conviction.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511,
    SNAP “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”

  • Duane Lamers

    Judy, name a bishop who should be removed in your estimation. Include as well the details of your judgment wherein you prove that he should be removed
    even where civil authorities have not so proven.

    Msgr. Lynn was not released on a technicality.

    Prosecutors are bound by statutes of limitaions. Would you have a bishop rermove a cleric if it has not been proven that the cleric was guilty? There have been instances where accused clerics were found not guilty. The cause of justice is not served by assuming that an accuser is truthful.

    Don’t think I defend pedophiles. I suspect that my sentence for those proven guilty would be sterner than any sentence permitted in any state thus far.

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  • mike ference

    Perhaps Nick Cafardi would be kind enough to ask Bishop David Zubik to review some of my allegations listed on my blog. I would guess it’s never too late to learn the truth. Maybe one or two former bishops of the Pittsburgh Diocese could answer for some of their crimes.

    It’s been going on for years in the Pittsburgh Diocese. There are simply enough corrupt politicians and enough Roman Coward Catholics that anything can be covered-up in PA.

    Please pass this information forward.

  • Judy Jones

    Duane, My volunteer work with SNAP includes several territories. My knowledge comes from whistleblowere and victims. YES, the bishops are still covering up sex crimes against kids. They are not removing accused child predators from their duties, and are they telling parishioners about the allegations against such priests and/or employees. Their secrets are still in tact, because the statute of limitations prevents so many victims from having their day in court. And the bishops know this, so they keep quiet and wait it out.
    My work covers most of Ohio, Pittsburgh, Johnstown-Altoona, PA and all of West Virginia., and Missouri… here is just one example of cover up ..
    It is the statutes of limitations that needs to be removed in order for victims claims to be proven accurate or false in a court of law. The church officials have no business deciding if a priest is guilty or not, They are not the proper officials to be investigating child sex crimes, no matter how long ago it happened.

    As long as high ranking church officials can stay out of jail…they still think they are above the law, and nothing has changed.
    I hope this helps to explain the disappointment by thousands of victims in regard to this decision about Msgr Lynn. I have also now read that this Lynn decision may affect those Penn State Officials who covered up the sex crimes of Jerry Sandusky.

    This court decision will affect so many cases… and kids are not being protected. They are at the bottom of list for anyone in a high power position who wishes to keep his power..It is essential that the high ranking officials get prosecuted for enabling and empowering more kids to be sexually abused, because we all know that child predators need to be kept far away from kids forever.


  • Judy Jones

    btw.. your comment: “Prosecutors are bound by statutes of limitaions. Would you have a bishop rermove a cleric if it has not been proven that the cleric was guilty?”—

    — This is exactly why the statute of limitations should be removed, both civil and criminal.. It is the courts that determine if a cleric has been proven guilty or not..ok?

  • Tom Martin

    He admitted he was guilty when he made statements he tried to do the lesser of two evils in order to protect the CHURCH. As a retired priest I would prefer him to accept the responsibility for his damage and serve the time without complaining.

  • Earold Gunter

    Judy, first let me say I am not trying to speak on behalf of Duane, as he is very capable of doing this for himself. But in reading all the comments, I see a misinterpretation of his comments on your part, perhaps because you are so very focused, and have great passion about crimes against children, which based on previous discussion with Duane, we both appreciate.
    What I think Duane was saying, was that this article revealed the court ruled that the law child welfare law that was applied to these heinous acts was not applicable to the situation, as this scumbag was not responsible for the children’s welfare in the first place. No one, even the judge who ruled, disagreed what he did was wrong.
    Although I’m sure the statue of limitations is applicable in many cases, and it sounds like you have great knowledge of this due to your volunteer work, in this particular case, it had no bearing on this ruling.
    I think the only way, other than complete and thorough cooperation from the Pope and Vatican, is for the U.S. government to step in and use the RICOH Act to charge the Catholic Church as a criminal organization. This has been used successfully many times in the past to convict those at the top of criminal organizations who have set up safeguards to shield themselves from direct involvement. If nothing more, it could be used to leverage the Pope and Vatican to finally fully cooperate.
    There is a stain on the Catholic church that is not just a stain of what would be called a sin among the faithful, but rather a stain of injustice all moral humans understand.
    I am a anti-theist, and as such would like to see the worship of current gods go the way of the worship of other gods worshiped by man in the past. Although I think this situation goes a long way in achieving that goal, as it shows that morality and Christianity are not synonymous, I would like to see this situation brought to justice, even if it that furthered the goals of religion.

  • JuneAnnette

    What Roman Catholic apologists don’t tell you about their Child Protection / Safe Environment programs:

    Mother’s Watch, a Catholic Blog, examines the Child Safety Programs/Measures/Resources implemented by the Bishops in response to the Clergy Abuse Scandal in light of Catholic teaching. Their in-depth analysis entitled ‘HOW DARE YOU, BISHOPS!’ begs the question . . are these programs designed to protect children or the Bishops? You be the judge!

    “Safe Environment” for bishops?
    (start quote) In light of the homosexual priest scandals, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have new “guidelines” for implementation of “safe environment” programs.  These bishops even admit that their guidelines are not spiritually inspired by Church teaching, but by sexuality “experts,” the same sick experts that recommended sex education.  In an attempt to quell the publicity, bishops now say that they will “cooperate with civil authorities, educators, and community organizations.’     The bishops new “‘code of conduct’ establishes acceptable behavior that is legal”  (Emphasis ours).   Furthermore,  American bishops have meticulously avoided any condemning statements against sexual activity of all priests including homosexual priests with young men over 18!
    The bishops again demonize the child stating that: “It is important to remember that while child abuse is usually committed by an adult, children and young people may be offenders.”   This is a thin-ice statement which could refer to children abusing children, but more importantly, and most likely, could also mean that children could be accused as the seducers of sex with adults. (end quote)

    1) Citation: Source: Mother’s Watch Blog

  • Daniel Berry, NYC

    Interesting, isn’t it, this practice among Roma clerics (and, sadly, many–perhaps, most–of the laity) of equating “church” with the power guys who run it’s bureaucracy.

    Not surprising, though: like any other bureaucracy, the Vatican’s first rule is to preserve its status-quo. And like any bureaucracy in the corporate world, it will sacrifice anyone it has to in order to do that. Including children.

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